The $1000 Self-Driving Car Kit

A few months ago, while I was beating the bushes for an autonomous vehicle job, I read yet another profile of the wunderkind George Hotz and his self-driving car startup, Comma.ai.

So I wrote him. Would he hire me?, I asked.

A few minutes later he replied, Can you come by tomorrow?

It was the fastest response I got from any of self-driving car companies I pursued.

And so I found myself sitting in the garage of the George Hotz’s house and lab in San Francisco, brainstorming how to get an inexpensive, smartphone-based system to drive a car.

How much data would the video require? How could we train a neural network without labeling the data?

It was a lot of fun.

Shortly thereafter my job offer from Ford came through and I went in that direction, but I still have a lot of fondness for Comma.ai, and admiration for George Hotz, and appreciation for his willingness to give me a shot.

That’s the long wind-up for my perspective on the recent long article in The Verge on Comma.ai.

Comma’s autonomous driver sounds like it’s coming along nicely, and they’re soon to launch their data-gathering program, so they can train those neural networks we talked about.

As Hotz says in the article:

Tesla’s never going to sell aftermarket self-driving systems for Honda Civics. That’s what we’re doing.

And I wish them a lot of luck and success. The world will be a better place for it.

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